THE MAGNIFICENT MEYERSONS (2021)

August 19, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. It might have been quite enjoyable had we just continued to eavesdrop on Kate Mulgrew and Barbara Barrie as they strolled through the park talking about life – past, present, and future. Their segment is easily the highlight of the film, and unfortunately, it’s difficult to put a positive spin on any other piece of this project from writer-director Evan Oppenheimer. Okay, some of the drone shots of New York City are lovely, however, it’s important to know when enough is enough.

The film opens by introducing the titular Meyersons. Ian Kahn plays eldest son Roland, a grumpy, uptight dude who seems to care only about 3 things: his young daughter, his success in business, and his strength in holding the family together during tough times. Relative newcomer Jackie Burns plays eldest daughter Daphne, who is married to nice guy Alan (Greg Keller), and she’s the type who holds grudges against him for what she dreamt, and keeps secrets that shouldn’t be kept. Shoshannah Stern plays Susie, the deaf daughter with an unscrupulous business plan and a luminescent also-deaf girlfriend Tammy (Lauren Ridloff, “The Walking Dead”). Youngest son Daniel (Daniel Eric Gold, a Josh Groban lookalike) is a Rabbi-in-training, while questioning all aspects of religion.

Most of the Meyersons are not very adept at being decent human beings. Their mother is played by the aforementioned Ms. Mulgrew (“Orange is the New Black”, Star Trek: Voyager”), and she’s a pediatric Oncologist, who questions her career choice since she has to regularly deliver such horrific news. Ms. Barrie plays her mother Celeste, who seems to be the only one with any real perspective on life or the family. Also appearing is terrific character actor Richard Kind as father Morty Meyerson, who is seen mostly through flashbacks prior to abandoning his family some twenty years prior.

It’s quite possible this would work better as a stage play, but that would mean the loss of the multiple street shots of the city, which are far more interesting than most of the conversations we are forced to hear. If a filmmaker chooses to fill the screen with a bunch of whiny New Yorkers, the whining should at least be interesting and/or entertaining. And while it’s understandable for a director to want to give his own child some screen time, all objectivity cannot be surrendered. This is quite simply a painful and laborious film to sit through. I don’t say that easily or often, as I inevitably find something or someone to latch onto in the 250+ movies I watch each year. This time I failed.

Limited theatrical release in NYC on August 20, and Los Angeles August 27

WATCH THE TRAILER


SOUND OF METAL (2020)

November 19, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. Many of us have attended concerts and experienced a ringing in our ears for a while afterwards. Have you ever thought about the musicians who are playing that music night after night? It’s a risk requiring precautions … and even then, disaster can occur. The first narrative feature from writer-director Darius Marder uses the hearing loss of a heavy metal drummer to explore what happens when the life we know is suddenly snatched away.

Riz Ahmed (TV mini-series “The Night Of”) stars as Ruben, the aforementioned drummer. The film opens with Ruben drumming on stage as his lead singer/girlfriend Lou (underrated Olivia Cooke, THOROUGHBREDS, “Bates Motel”) screams out the lyrics punk-style for their band, Blackgammon. We witness Ruben’s euphoria in the moment, with his “Please Kill Me” tattoo visible across his chest. Afterwards, we see the couple in their RV living a happy life of veggie juice, yoga, and slow dancing between gigs. The first crack in the armor is Lou’s scratching her arm from anxiety, and the next is devastating for Ruben and the couple.

Ahmed is terrific in the most important moments, and he’s assisted by top notch sound design from Nicolas Becker (GRAVITY, 2013). This allows us to feel and experience the moment Ruben realizes he has a problem, and how he begins to process this. Director Marder utilizes subtitles/closed captioning throughout, both for the deaf community and to make Ruben’s situation visceral for viewers. When the doctor explains hearing loss, frustration and defiance kick in for Ruben. He becomes focused on the $40-80,000 cochlear implant option, and views it as a way to maintain his normal life.

Lou becomes worried for Ruben’s well-being, and we learn he’s a recovering heroin addict. He reluctantly agrees to a remote deaf community/rehab facility run by Joe (Paul Raci). It’s here that Ruben learns sign language and begins to adjust to his new reality. Joe is a very patient and sage advisor, and preaches that being deaf is not a handicap – it’s not viewed as something to fix. Implants are considered an affront to the deaf culture, and the film neither shies away from this conflict, nor magnifies it.

The clash between Joe’s patience and guidance, and Ruben’s desire to get his normal life back comprise much of the film. The final scene between the two is gut-wrenching thanks to extraordinary acting from Ahmed and especially Raci. Supporting work in the film is provided by Lauren Ridloff (a hearing-impaired actor) and Mathieu Amalric as Lou’s dad. The final act is quite something to watch. The director says the film is about the finality of life changes, and letting go of what we can’t fix. Joe urges Ruben to appreciate the stillness, and we also see a love story that served its purpose and run its course. Will the distortion lead Ruben to find peace in the stillness? Depending on your stance in regards to the debate within the deaf community, the ending either works for you or it doesn’t. Either way, it’s well done and well-acted.

Amazon Studios will release this in theaters November 20, 2020 and on Prime Video December 4, 2020

watch the trailer